Just east of Toronto’s financial district is a hidden open mic spot that is situated just under the HI-Toronto hostel on 76 Church St. This low-key spot invites local musicians and an ever-changing international audience due to its direct access from the hostel to the bar. It is a fantastic business model, since it’s a perfect place for backpackers to unwind after a long day of trekking around Toronto. Random tidbit, it has an unusually vast collection of whiskies, if you’re a whisky-lover!
Tuesdays are the acoustic open mic evenings, which start at around 7:30pm; they offer the first five performers on the sign-up list a free dinner! Sunday evenings, starting at 8pm, are described as the open mic band nights. There is a resident drum set, keyboard, acoustic guitar, and a couple of mics set up as well. A more complete and detailed list of equipment and stage dimensions can be found here
What I enjoy most about this setting is the comradery amongst the artists. I confess, after watching one too many singing competition shows, I forget that artists are not always competitors out for blood. The crowd that The Cavern attracts are there to share their music, their experiences and their support for other artists. Quick anecdote; a couple of the regulars there saught us after our set to give us a few quick-n’-easy tips that they thought could impact our performance. We were overwhelmed with gratitude that they cared enough about what we were doing to share some of their insight about performance technique (which I am desperately lacking) and opened up to us about their lived and learned experiences.
There is about a 50:50 split of musicians who perform covers and musicians who showcase their original songs. Those that perform their originals often fine-tune them from week to week by playing them over and over. It is a fantastic place to get comfortable with performing and getting over the jitters of being on stage. The type of music that is played varies drastically from week to week and is extremely eclectic which makes it difficult to describe. My advice is to take a trip over there and see for yourself.
Checkout their Instagram page for snippets of past performers, their website, and their Facebook page. The Cavern prides itself on offering live music as much as they possibly can, so keep tabs on this place to see if it’s the right venue for you to start gigging!